When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time

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Thames & Hudson, 2005 - History - 336 pages
3 Reviews
"The focus is the most severe mass extinction known in earth's history .The science on which the book is based is up-to-date, thorough, and balanced. Highly recommended."Choice

Today it is common knowledge that the dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite impact 65 million years ago that killed half of all species then living. Far less known is a much greater catastrophe that took place at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago: ninety percent of life was destroyed, including saber-toothed reptiles and their rhinoceros-sized prey on land, as well as vast numbers of fish and other species in the sea.

This book documents not only what happened during this gigantic mass extinction but also the recent rekindling of the idea of catastrophism. Was the end-Permian event caused by the impact of a huge meteorite or comet, or by prolonged volcanic eruption in Siberia? The evidence has been accumulating through the 1990s and into the new millennium, and Michael Benton gives his verdict at the end of the volume.

From field camps in Greenland and Russia to the laboratory bench, When Life Nearly Died involves geologists, paleontologists, environmental modelers, geochemists, astronomers, and experts on biodiversity and conservation. Their working methods are vividly described and explained, and the current disputes are revealed. The implications of our understanding of crises in the past for the current biodiversity crisis are also presented in detail. 46 illustrations.

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User Review  - setnahkt - LibraryThing

I was a geology undergrad during the late 1960's-early 1970's, when two revolutionary ideas were being accepted - the identification of “cryptovolcanic” features as the remnant of extraterrestrial ... Read full review

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User Review  - jefware - LibraryThing

Life is not always the vibrant, resilient abundant phenomenon we see around us. Sometimes it a few clams and pigs. Two-hundred and fifty-one million years ago, life nearly died. Why? Could it happen again? Read full review

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About the author (2005)

Michael Benton is Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology and Head of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. He has written over forty books, many of them standard technical works and textbooks, as well as popular books about dinosaurs and the history of life.

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